Proposition 20: Redistricting for Congress

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If Prop 20 passes, it will expand the authority and impact of a new Commission and redistricting process that does not fully represent or protect our communities’ interests.

What is it?

Our state is divided into geographical areas called legislative districts. Voters who live inside each district elect officials to represent them in the State Legislature and the U.S Congress. Every 10 years, information from the census about changes in population is used to re-draw the district boundary lines. This process is called redistricting. In the past, district lines have been drawn by elected officials in the State Legislature. One criticism of that process is that many districts were drawn to be made up overwhelmingly of voters who belong to one political party, concentrating electoral power for that political party in certain areas.

After the passage of the Voters First Act (approved by 50.9% of voters as Proposition 11 in November 2008) the responsibility for drawing district lines for the State Assembly and State Senate was taken away from elected officials in the State Legislature and given to a new Citizens Redistricting Commission. Proposition 11 also changed some of the rules for establishing districts, discouraging the splitting up of cities or counties during redistricting. The Citizens Redistricting Commission is currently being selected to begin the redistricting process after the 2010 Census.

Proposition 20 would expand The Voters First Act to include Congressional redistricting. If Prop 20 passes, the Citizens Redistricting Commission will also take on the responsibility for redrawing Federal Congressional district boundaries. The new rules for redistricting would again be slightly altered, defining “populations of interest” as those communities that share social and economic interests.

This ballot initiative competes with Proposition 27, which seeks to eliminate the Citizens Redistricting Commission and return redistricting authority to the State Legislature. If both propositions are approved, only the one with the highest number of votes will go into effect. If both propositions fail, neither will be implemented.

MIV Analysis

Although MIV agrees that redistricting reform could make the process more fair, we recommended a “No” vote on Proposition 11 in November 2008 because we felt that it did not do enough to guarantee that people of color, women, and low-income communities would be adequately represented in the new redistricting process. We also felt that the new rules did not adequately ensure that immigrant and people of color communities’ voting rights would be protected, creating the risk that our communities would be divided into different districts, diluting our voting power.

Those same concerns stand as the new Redistricting Commission selection is underway. Although the 120 semi-finalists still being considered when this analysis was finalized reflect the race and ethnic population of our State, the initial pool of over 4,500 applicants did not reflect California's population. There is also no guarantee that the final commission will reflect California's population in terms of race and ethnicity. Additionally, the median household income in California is $61,000/year, with most households earning far below that. 80% of semi-finalists for the Commission earn over $75,000/year. Prop. 20's definition of "population of interest" is potentially problematic because the Commission may interpret the definition to exclude consideration of socioeconomic "characteristics" such as race, income or educational level. This interpretation might make it harder to use secondary data sources such as census data (including income levels, race, language proficiency, etc) to articulate a community of interest. This could make it harder for communities of color to maintain adequate representation in our legislative bodies.

If Prop 20 passes, it will expand the authority and impact of a new Commission and redistricting process that does not fully represent or protect our communities’ interests.

Supporters and Opponents

Key Supporters include Charles T. Munger (main backer and financier of Prop 20), California Common Cause, California Chamber of Commerce, AARP

Key Opponents include Hank Lacayo, Congress of California Seniors & Carl Pope, Chairman of the Sierra Club

Paid for by We Are California, sponsored committee of Mobilize the Immigrant Vote and Partnership for Immigrant Leadership and Action. 4100 Redwood Rd, Ste 10 #145, Oakland, CA 94619. FPPC# 1332307.
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